Corporate logos are, in many ways, the face of a business. Much like when you unexpectedly recognize a friend from your old neighborhood it puts you at ease, a familiar corporate image can provide a sense of comfort, safety and security.
When you see the golden arches you know you are looking at a Mcdonald’s. If you’ve just pulled off the interstate to fill up with gas and your children are letting you know in no uncertain terms they are hungry, that towering set of golden arches may well encourage you to indulge in the hamburgers and fries that McDonald’s has served to billions and billions of customers.
Familiarity is an essential element in the success of any business and a proper logo or corporate identity communicates a message to the public. Coca-Cola, Nike, Playboy and Major League Baseball all have visual identities that instantly deliver a message to existing and potential customers.
Companies take this image very seriously. Cadillac was long recognized as the measuring stick of excellence in the automotive industry, but as GM’s fortunes sagged, so did the reputation of the luxury brand. When GM went into bankruptcy a new head of the Cadillac division was appointed. He had no experience in the world of automobiles. Despite lackluster vehicle designs, soft sales and the obvious challenges of a financial reorganization, the new boss decided a reworking of the Cadillac logo was among his top priorities. More than $40 million later the Cadillac crest had been stretched slightly wider and the laurel leaves surrounding the original crest were gone. Did the new crest deliver a better message and was it worth $40 million? Debatable.
Coca-Cola has a red and white logo that is recognized the world over. Whether in Asia, North America or in deepest Africa, the Coca-Cola look is familiar. For those that enjoy soda, there is nothing more popular. Starbucks updated its logo a couple of years back but kept the same green color and basic shape to create brand continuity.
According to some marketing agencies, the Playboy Bunny is one of the top ten most recognized logos in the world. Like or dislike their product, their logo effectively communicates exactly who they are and what their line of goods and services entails. The bunny sends a message.
Two of the major professional sports in the United States, basketball (NBA) and baseball (MLB) both have distinctive red, white and blue logos with the white portion of the logo being made up of a silhouette playing their sport. Both represent multi-billion dollar industries. Both are clearly recognizable and leave no doubt about what they stand for.
Large corporations have money in their annual budget each year to defend and protect their logos and their corporate image. The protection of their intellectual property, we’re told, is the protection of the business itself. If someone uses the logo or a corporate image without permission, it can cause irreparable harm. It can alter the public’s perception of a brand and in turn, do tremendous damage to a business.
It’s for that reason that Indian Motorcycles, for example, is constantly working to make sure only licensed, approved vendors are selling products bearing their company name and logo. If someone co-opts the logo and puts out an inferior Indian branded T-shirt or other product, it reflects poorly on America’s oldest motorcycle brand.
It’s also why Disney spends an enormous amount of time and effort trolling the internet to make sure no one is misusing their intellectual property. Pre-schools, in an effort to create a kid-friendly environment, have been known to use images of Disney characters on their exterior walls without any licensing agreement from the Disney corporation. Disney pays a cadre of attorneys hundreds of dollars an hour to enforce trademark law and halt unlicensed use. They understand the value of protecting the visual imaging of their brand.
All of which makes the senseless suicide of Mickey Mouse so perplexing. If Disney understands, and they surely do, the value of their characters in the world of family entertainment, why on earth would they intentionally sully that name themselves?
When my wife and I met we lived about three hours from Orlando and the Magic Kingdom. Though we had no children yet in our first years together, we were frequent visitors to Disney. One might say we fell into the “children of all ages” category. We have countless pictures with characters including Goofy, Donald Duck and Mickey Mouse himself. To us and to tens of thousands of theme park visitors each day, the characters symbolized joy.
The image of Mickey Mouse is most certainly cute and playful, and since 1928 he has been so much more. His ears represent Disney. There is a statue of Walt Disney in Disney World, holding hands with Mickey Mouse. Mickey is so essential to the Disney brand that it is actually him that is holding Walt’s hand, rather than the other way around. Seeing the image of Mickey Mouse has brought a smile to the face of children and adults the world over. I would venture to say he has brought a smile literally billions of times.
Sadly, something very strange happened this past week, however, that alarmed me and should be cause for panic in The Magic Kingdom.
When I was a child a rainbow was a colorful, enjoyable, safe place for every child’s imagination. Countless refrigerator doors have been adorned with children’s drawings of stick men, a sun in the sky and an arching rainbow. Somewhere along the line, however, the gay pride movement laid claim to the rainbow and now it signifies the gay community rather than representing innocent children.
Mickey Mouse is following suit.
Corporate Disney has made a huge issue out of a bill passed recently by the Florida legislature and signed into law by the Governor that prohibits school teachers from teaching children in Kindergarten through third grade about sex and transgender issues. Addition, subtraction and the alphabet seem like appropriate lessons for Kindergarten children, not exploring whether Bubba is in touch with his feminine side. For reasons unknown, Disney believes this is a bad law. Apparently, the house the mouse built is a strong proponent of teaching the kinks and quirks of human sexuality to five-year-olds.
On its face, this is disturbing enough, but the self-inflicted damage goes much deeper.
While at a public event this past weekend I was introduced to two older, retired women. Both had very short, not particularly stylish haircuts. The two were clearly close. What I couldn’t tell at first was whether they were simply great friends, or whether they were a romantic couple. In 2022 one has to consider all possibilities and look for any signs to know for sure. I took note one of the women was wearing a visor with Mickey Mouse on it and immediately thought to myself, “Oh, she’s a lesbian.”
As it turned out, they were not romantically attached but were simply close friends in the more traditional sense of the word. That part isn’t of particular importance. What was important is that about 30 minutes after meeting them I realized that Mickey Mouse had contributed to my mistaken assumption that they were a lesbian couple.
I don’t care at all what people do in their private lives. It’s not my business. It’s no one’s business but their own. Whether the two ladies are lesbian, straight or have spent their lives in a convent isn’t the purpose of my mentioning them.
A contributing factor in my assessment of their romantic status had been Mickey Mouse. After all the hullaballoo raised by Disney suggesting young children should be taught sex lessons and repeatedly saying this was to protect the LGBTQ+ community, Mickey Mouse, the very image of everything Disney, had in my mind, like the rainbow, become a symbol for the gay community.
When I saw Mickey on the woman’s visor, it didn’t bring about the smile and affection that his cute innocence used to generate. Instead, Mickey Mouse had become a gay symbol. Surely I’m not the only person that has unconsciously linked the two as a result of Disney‘s misguided activism.
Mickey Mouse has committed suicide. Disney is killing the very brand image that they have spent nearly 100 years protecting. By thrusting an ill-informed gay agenda on the public, Disney has stepped outside the mainstream. By embracing teaching five-year-olds transgender lessons, Disney is alienating millions of families. The company stock dipped by about 14%. Credible estimates say its value dropped by $50 billion. We’re told countless families opted to cancel their Disney+ streaming subscriptions. All of those are damaging and fiscally draining. But the real damage is the irreparable harm to Mickey Mouse.
If the world looks at that mouse and sees a gay symbol rather than a fun family-friendly character, Disney as we have long known it, is dead. Death by suicide.
RIP Mickey Mouse. 1928 - 2022.
• Tim Constantine is a columnist for The Washington Times and hosts “The Capitol Hill Show” podcast every week from Washington, D.C.
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